TCU, currently undefeated and ranked third in the BCS, will reportedly join the Big East Conference prior to the 2011-12 year in all sports.
On many levels, this is a wonderful marriage for all parties involved. However, the implications on a team that doesn't play football in the Big East might be the most impacted by this move.
The Big East has been taking a lot of shots from the national media the last few years because (somehow) their champion receives an automatic invite to a BCS bowl game every year. The best teams in the conference this year, West Virginia and Connecticut, have three and four losses, respectively.
To be blunt, the Big East hasn't deserved to have a team in a BCS bowl in the last few years. Meanwhile, teams like Michigan State (with just one loss in a better conference) will be on the outside looking in this year.
Meanwhile, TCU has been the bellcow of the Mountain West Conference for the last few years. With Boise State, they have pressed the issue with media and bar patrons for the last few years about how the "little guy" gets a shot at the National Championship Game; last year, both teams were undefeated and were left to play each other in a non-Championship game.
TCU moving to the Big East is a seismic move in the landscape of college football.
Look at the schools playing football in the Big East right now:
- West Virginia
- South Florida
Consider, then, the states that are considered to have the best high school football talent:
Of course, the "Big East" isn't going to work their way into California. But adding Texas Christian University to the mix means the conference will have a strong presence in four of the top five states on that list.
Add to this the fact that Rutgers (New Jersey) is perhaps the best football program in the biggest media market in the country, and UConn just happens to be smelling distance from the campus of ESPN, and the Big East has a wonderful demographic representation.
This move pushes TCU to the top of what was, at one time, a premier conference and forces traditionally strong programs like West Virginia, Syracuse and Pitt to step up their game; two in-conference losses isn't going to be good enough any more.
TCU also answers their critics that say the Mountain West - filled with schools like Utah, BYU, Air Force... New Mexico... Wyoming... - isn't good enough for a legit national title contender to win. Because voters on the east coast don't care (and don't stay awake long enough) to watch games in Wyoming and Colorado, TCU has been buried by doubters.
Even if Auburn loses their conference championship game, they will probably still face Oregon for the BCS Championship this year.
In no way is this a knock on the Mountain West... well, ok, it is. But Pitt and West Virginia carry way more prestige in the eyes of football fans (and media) than UNLV and San Diego State.
Now the Big East and TCU have shut up each other's critics. The conference has a legit national title contender, and TCU will play "legit" teams.
So how might this move most impact the college football world?
Notre Dame is a member of the Big East. In every sport other than football, the Fighting Irish compete as a member of the conference. This addition might give the Big East enough ammunition to make a stronger case for the Irish to join the conference in everything.
The first, obvious, argument is that Notre Dame is part of the conference already. There are already rivalries on the basketball court, why not the gridiron?
Secondly, the faith based addition to the Big East. Texas Christian University carries a strong mission as an institution, just like Notre Dame does. Maybe it's a token point, but it's a consideration.
The third consideration for Notre Dame might be the biggest though. It impacts everything that head coach Brian Kelly has focused his comments on since taking over last summer: winning.
Look back at the recruiting bases that the Big East has a foothold in. Notre Dame hasn't needed help in the past, but they aren't playing Miami (FL) or Florida State every year any more. They also haven't been on top of the college football landscape in more than a decade, which is more than a generation in recruiting reality.
Taking the Fighting Irish Brand to New York, Florida, Texas and Ohio - where Kelly had great success coaching Cincy - would be a strong marketing move for Notre Dame.
Speaking of Kelly, his impact on this potential decision could be major. He spent the last few years recruiting against, and beating, the Big East. His wins over highly ranked Utah and at USC have confirmed the love from the alumni base in South Bend. Despite the Irish have some exclusive language in the BCS to allow them favorable position for a championship game as an independant, adding the automatic bid for the Irish makes as much sense for them as it does TCU.
Obviously the Big East would love to cement the prestige of Notre Dame as part of the entire conference. However, if they can geographically add Chicago as a recruiting base to their impressive footprint - especially as Nebraska joins the Big Ten - would make them into one of the strongest power conferences in the country again.
There's a lot of money on the table for Notre Dame (um, television deal?), and their ability to schedule whomever they want is part of their glamor. But the evolving world of college football may have just felt enough of a shift for the Irish to think twice about associating with a conference on Saturdays.